Retailers look for Christmas sales lift

Julian Harris
Follow Julian
CONSUMER spending showed another month of modest growth in November, according to data released today.

Yet shop vacancies have risen compared with last year as the high street cuts back on costs.

Prospects for Christmas sales remain “delicately poised” following the early winter freeze, said the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which conducted the survey with accountants KPMG.

Sales were up 2.8 per cent in November, compared to the same time last year, similar to growth seen in recent months.

And “like-for-like” sales – which exclude the effects of shop floor expansion – were up just 0.7 per cent for November.

“Given that VAT pushed up annual inflation, boosting sales values, underlying volume growth is virtually zero,” said Stephen Robertson of BRC.

Sales of “big ticket” items were affected by low consumer confidence, the report said.

British consumer confidence tumbled to an 18-month low in November, figures from the European Commission revealed last week.

Yet retailers remain confident that shoppers will boost spending in the final weeks of the holiday season. A recent survey by the Confederation of British Industry showed that 59 per cent of retailers expected higher December sales than last year.

And the government’s spending cuts, outlined in November, “have not made things worse,” said Robertson.

West End stores are extending their opening hours on the Monday after Christmas, in a bid to tempt shoppers into stocking up before the VAT rise on 4 January.